Just recently my wife and I got the opportunity to meet Larry Vickers and pick his brain for some advice and recommendations. Yes, that Larry Vickers; the one whose name is on some custom Glock pistols, who is well known in the shooting community for being very knowledgeable, having been one of the baddest of the bad asses. (One of the perks of being married to my wife is the chance to meet some of these legends in person and get to talk to them on a personal level.)
The reason that we went to speak with him was to get some advice on what some in the industry call “combatives.” Combatives is the ability to bring appropriate weapons into a fight, whether it be a gun, knife, or even hand to hand skills. It is the ability to survive in a fight for your life. While I did serve in the Army, it was not for a very long time, and not in a combat related field. I worked in close combat support aviation. My job was not to be a can of whoop ass, but rather to be a canned whoop ass delivery boy. My knowledge and skill level in combatives is a pamphlet compared to Mr. Vickers encyclopedia level of expertise.
My wife and I drove to a small private outdoor shooting range in a town about two and half hours west of Houston where Mr. Vickers was teaching a class. It was a four day long beginners class that focused on two days of pistol and two days of rifle training. We arrived on the last day of handgun training and enjoyed watching the other students learn for a few hours from a distance. We aren’t beginners and we didn’t want to interrupt. After the class was over, we met with Mr. Vickers inside the lodge at the property and my wife explained her circumstances, the issue she was having, and what advice she was looking for. My wife unloaded her pistol, and Mr. Vickers asked her to demonstrate a draw for him. She did so, and he said that there was nothing wrong with her draw (does not need improvement, just practice to get quicker), and asked her why she got the gun that she did; “Why did you get that gun?” She said that she got it for self defense, misunderstanding his meaning. He clarified; “Why did you get THAT gun? Why that model in particular?” My wife was carrying her favorite gun, an FNS-9mm. He commented that the distance between the backstrap and the face of the trigger was likely causing her issue. She has small hands, and when drawing her finger has to reach for the trigger face. This had not occurred to either of us that this even could be an issue. He recommended that she try an H&K VP9 and see how that works for her, since it should have a shorter distance between the backstrap and trigger face. While it was something that neither one of us had thought of, Mr. Vickers spotted the issue almost immediately.
Takeway #1: Why did you choose the pistol that you did? Is it based on reputation? Reliability? Did fit ever become part of your decision making process? If it didn’t, then there is a good chance that you may have the wrong gun. (This has me thinking about my choice of firearm as well, and I need to check mine for the same fit issue to make sure that I am not making the same mistake.) While there is absolutely nothing wrong with my wife’s FNS, and it remains one of her favorite pistols, we are thinking about what other options might be out there for her, whether that is for her to go back to her M&P, pick up a VP9, or even look further. Possibly another pistol, such as a Sig Sauer P320, or even a Walther. Worst case scenario, we will go see a gun smith and see if they can reduce the distance between the backstrap and trigger face for a better fit on her FNS or even her Glock. We have some homework to do. It is very likely that you do as well.
My wife and Mr. Vickers spoke some more, and the subject of alternatives came up, such as knives. My wife showed him her Fox Karambit knife, and he liked it. He did ask a question though that again got us to thinking and it was something that had not occurred to us. If an attacker gets up close and personal, and she uses the knife and the attacker backs away, then what? What does she do with the knife? Drop it? Use her strong hand only to draw her pistol to end the threat? More food for thought for us.
Takeaway #2: What do you do with your knife, when the threat backs out of knife range? If you train with a knife, most of us will focus on the knife. If you train with a pistol, most of us will focus on the pistol. None of us actually train for the fight. We train as though each tool in an of itself will be the end of the threat, not expecting that a threat could evolve that requires us to use multiple self defense tools in the same fight. In a previous blog post I spoke about having a knife or alternative tool in order to fight to your gun. I never addressed what to do with that tool once you did manage to get to your gun. It never crossed my mind, or my wife’s either. Mr. Vickers dispelled us of that quickly. Whatever training and practice you do have, you need to include all of the elements in your arsenal, and transitioning between them. How do you transition from knife to pistol, or pistol to knife, or rifle to pistol, or pistol to rifle, and so on. Transitioning between tools is as vital to your training as accuracy.
So in a matter of hours, Mr. Vickers gave my wife and I an entirely new set of training to work on to improve our skill, and our ability to survive. He also made us rethink the tools we have chosen, and why.
Thank you Larry.